New loitering weapons systems

4 August 2023

Special Israeli-developed loitering weapon systems will be one of the new weapon systems to be carried by the upgraded version of the Israeli-made Merkava 4 main battle tank (MBT)

The experience gained by the Israeli defence forces from different types of loitering weapon systems resulted in the decision to equip the new version of the Merkava with this very advanced weapon system.

Israeli sources say the tests with dedicated loitering weapon systems deployed on the new version of the tank will begin soon.

The Israeli Ministry of Defence plans to begin series production of the upgraded version of the Merkava MBT this year. The first upgraded tanks are expected to be delivered to the Israeli defence forces (IDF) at the end of 2023.

The new tank is said to be capable of performing multiple missions in the fast-evolving "war zone" in which the MBT becomes a first-priority-target for the enemy.

Most of the new features that are being developed for the upgraded version are highly classified, however, according to defence sources, the Merkava 4 "Barak" (Lightening) will be equipped with an improved Trophy APS system made by Rafael, a system that will automatically fire on targets that pose danger to the tank (like units that launch anti-tank missiles), and a commander helmet that will prioritize the relevant data gathered by the tank's own sensors and others in the battle area. The "Iron Vision" commander helmet will have the capability of 360° viewing.

Some of the new systems to be integrated into the "Barak" are based on the combat suit developed by Israel aerospace industries (IAI) for an advanced armored fighting vehicle. Others will be modified for the new version of the Merkava 4.

An advanced main computer will give the tank crew the ability to focus on the most relevant targets while sharing the data with other tanks and other units on the ground and in the air. The sources added that the system has the ability to locate and destroy time-sensitive targets with small footprints, through quick acquisition and effective engagement of targets.

Some of these systems were developed for an advanced armored fighting vehicle while others are specifically developed for the new Merkava 4.

According to the IDF, the tank crew will be able to use virtual reality (VR) simulation.

Arie Egozi is a defence writer and analyst based in Tel Aviv.